Early Bird Breakdown Week 7 – Bears @ Packers

Hello and welcome back to Early Bird Breakdown for week seven of the regular season for the Packers. Before diving into the game, let’s look at the recap from last week.

The Recap:

Last week Green Bay was thrashed 30-16 in a game that did not even feel that close, having Green Bay’s first touchdown coming with less than 7 minutes left in the game and still down by two possessions. Going into the game, the Green Bay defense allowed only 172 rushing yards for the season but Dallas and the league’s best rushing attack ran over, around, and through Packer defenders for 192 yards. Offensively, the Packers looked lost again as Rodgers missed throws & had two turnovers. We will dissect the offenses woes in the breakdown (once again).

The Breakdown:

Packers’ Offense vs Bears’ Defense:

The Packers are 25th in passing offense at a mere 226.6 yards per game. I previously went into longer detail as to the struggles (see Early Bird Breakdown week 3 against the Lions) but in short there are a lot of issues, some may not be so obvious. First, Rodgers is just plain off. On the few occasions when there has been real separation he has missed. His accuracy is off, though not as bad as his completion percentage would appear. Second, while he has missed when there is separation, there has not been much in the way of spacing for the receivers this year consistently. This is in large part due to a lack of an elite weapon that blends size and speed together, something the Packers have not had since Javon Walker (6’3″, 4.38 second 40 yard dash). The Packers receivers all at their peak ran forty times associated with top linebackers, not receivers: Randall Cobb (4.55 seconds), Davante Adams (4.56), Jordy Nelson (4.51), Ty Montgomery (4.55). Third, the other reason for lack of separation is that the offensive scheme is not helping anyone. Modern offenses use bunch formations, pick plays, and varying route-tree combinations to cause defenses to have to switch man-to-man coverage during the play which causes openings and small windows of separation. The Packers do not make use of any of these in their offense. The reason the offense worked for years was that zone coverage was the preferred option by defenses as they did not think physically most defensive backs could manage man coverage in the league due to the various rules updates to pass interference calls. However, in recent seasons defensive back play has gotten more consistent and the Denver Broncos showed on film that the Packers do not have the talent to beat man coverage. Since then, the coaching has not adjusted to the defensive schemes and has cost them.

Now, how does this relate to this week’s opponent, Chicago? Well Chicago is the league’s tenth best pass defense, giving up only 233.5 yards per game & 11th best overall in total defense. Chicago will be ready for the Packers offense, especially with news that Eddie Lacy is out of the game. The Packers to help offset this loss just completed a trade for Chief’s backup running back Knile Davis for a conditional 7th round draft choice. Davis has begun practicing with the team but on the short week turn around, expect more of Ty Montgomery to take some or even most of the carries. Chicago will adjust by spacing out the defense and daring Green Bay to run.

However, the Bears Achilles’s Heel is that they are getting torched in the fourth quarter. Chicago for the first three quarters of games have given up 14 points per game. But in the fourth quarter alone, they have given up nearly 10 points per game. Conversely, Green Bay is one of the league’s worst fourth quarter offenses, scoring only 5.2 points per game in the fourth quarter and only one fourth quarter passing touchdown. So, who’s trend holds true? Over the course of the season probably both, but this week I like the Packers’ frustrated offense at home to put up solid numbers.

Packers’ Defense vs Bears’ Offense:

The Packers run defense will need to bounce back and should against a Chicago team that has not run the ball effectively at all this season, ranking in the bottom third overall in the category. It’s the Bears’ passing offense versus the still injured Packers secondary that will be the interesting matchup.

Sam Shields has now been officially placed on injured reserve and the other starting corner Damarious Randall has been once again ruled out for the game. Chicago, despite losing starter Jay Cutler at the beginning of the season has been fantastic through the air with backup Brian Hoyer who has the Bears ranked fourth in passing offense, nearly 60 yards more per game than the Packers’ offense. Side note, if that is not a wake up call that the offense is not merely in a slump for Green Bay I do not know what to say. With how rough the Packers’ secondary has been playing without their two starting corners (though Randall was getting torched before his injury as well) wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey will get plenty of open looks. On the plus side, number two receiver Eddie Royal is officially out, and as he was their speed option it should help take some of the burden off the corners. It will be up to Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels, Julius Peppers, and Nick Perry to all pressure the quarterback to help out these corners. Otherwise, expect Chicago to have similar drives like the one Dallas had in the last game during their two minute drill before half time.

The Weather:

Lambeau expects to be cool, in the mid 40s during kickoff with 0% chance of rain.

The Breakdown:

This game has the potential to be far more interesting than Packers fans would expect. The Bears pass offense has been explosive & the Packers continue to struggle in coverage against talented wideouts without their starting corners. Combine that with the Bears playing defense very well & the Packers offensive woes this game could be an upset. However, as I stated back before the Lions game, the Packers have for over a season have consistently bounced back after a terrible game (then they tend to regress in the following weeks) and I expect that to be the case here. The Packers average 28.8 points per game the week after scoring below 20 going back to last season. I think Rodgers comes out early and gets some points then the game tightens up. I think the game being close helps the Packers as their playcalling when ahead has not been particularly great and Rodgers gets his second fourth quarter passing touchdown this season (and in as many games). Green Bay hangs on to win this one 27-24.

As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University